Best vintage cameras you can still buy

Film is making a comeback, and in a very big way. Collecting vintage camera is a fun way to gain knowledge about history and photography. While people are upgrading to digital, 35mm film cameras are not old enough to be considered antique. 

Things to look for if you want a working camera.

  • An even shutter advance
  • A back that completely opens and closes
  • Shutter that pops at all speed
  • Aperture ring that slides smoothly
  • Shutter speed dial adjustment is not getting stuck
  • No signs of molds and fungus in the interior of the camera body and lens

Your interest is piqued but you don’t know an SLR from a rangefinder, or 35mm from medium format. Here are 6 of the best film cameras of all time:

Leica M6

Leicas are the crème de la crème of the photography world, and have been since Ernst Leitz first released the Leica 1 over 100 years ago. That moniker still rings true today, with their incredible digital Monochrom and legendary M-P series cameras. The M6, however, is special. And when it comes to film, it is one of the most highly sought cameras of all time. The M6 came in two distinctive models, the M6 and the M6 TTL. They both come with TTL metering, which makes them a breeze to pick up and use, even for photography novices.

The Canon AE-1

One of the most well known and widely circulated 35mm SLR cameras ever made, the Canon AE-1 has one of the most important seats at the table. Manufactured from 1976 to 1984, this camera helped bridge the gap between hardcore photo professionals and hobbyists. These rigs are sturdy and reliable, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get your hands on. Plus, Canon’s FD lenses are incredible and famous in their own right, and can generally be had on the cheap.

Pentax K1000

The Pentax K1000 is often referred to as a photography tank, and for good reason. The camera’s all-metal body gives it some healthy weight, and the simplicity of its functions—fully manual settings, no fancy extras or unnecessary buttons or levers—make it a dream to work with, so long as you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, this probably isn’t going to be your huckleberry. They’re relatively cheap to come by, and like the Canon’s, you can find lenses for them everywhere! Link

Olympus OM-1

Looking for incredible quality and compactness, but not exactly ready to hop into Leica Land just yet? The OM-1’s are oft considered the poor man’s Leica because of their incredible quality and lightweight, compact bodies. If you’re on a budget, this is the camera you should be looking for.

Canonet G III QL17

This camera isn’t some kind of photography powerhouse. It can’t use a million lenses (in fact, it has a fixed lens). It won’t be the only horse in your photographic stable. But it is the best-selling rangefinder camera with a built in light meter of all time—and it didn’t get there by sheer luck. From 1972 to 1982, Canon sold over 1.2 million of these little guys. The Canonet QL17’s come with incredibly sharp f/1.7 40mm lenses, and are frequently likened to their much more expensive Leica counterparts. The Canonet QL17’s come with built-in light meters, but they’re never accurate. So either download a light meter app for your smartphone, get an external one, or start reading up on the Sunny 16 Rule, ’cause you’re gonna need it

Nikon FM2

The FM2 is one of the biggest top-seat contenders on this list, if for no other reason than it is an absolute workhorse. Its incredible shutter speed versatility (as fast as 1/4000th of a second!), accurate metering, and mechanical shutter (which means it doesn’t need a battery for anything other than its light meter) mean that it is basically the ideal camera. The Nikon FM2 will take any of Nikon’s massive selection of F-mount lenses made after 1977 (AF-S Nikkor, AF Nikkor D, AF Nikkor, Nikkor AI-S, Nikkor AI, Nikon Series E, etc.), which means the possibilities are damn near endless.

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